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The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 7/The Birth of Manly Virtue



"Gratior & pulchro veniens in corpore Virtus."Virg.

ONCE on a time, a righteous sage,
Griev'd at the vices of the age,
Applied to Jove with fervent prayer;
"O Jove, if Virtue be so fair
As it was deem'd in former days,
By Plato and by Socrates,
Whose beauties mortal eyes escape,
Only for want of outward shape:
Make then its real excellence,
For once, the theme of human sense;
So shall the eye, by form confin’d,
Direct and fix the wandering mind;
And long deluded mortals see,
With rapture, what they us'd to flee!"
Jove grants the prayer, gives Virtue birth,
And bids him bless and mend the earth.
Behold him blooming fresh and fair,
Now made — ye gods — a son and heir:
An heir: and, stranger yet to hear,
An heir, an orphan of a peer;
But prodigies are wrought, to prove
Nothing impossible to Jove.
Virtue was for this sex design'd,
In mild reproof to womankind;
In manly form to let them see,
The loveliness of modesty,
The thousand decencies that shone
With lessened lustre in their own;
Which few had learn'd enough to prize,
And some thought modish to despise.
To make his merit more discerned,
He goes to school — he reads — is learn'd;
Rais'd high, above his birth, by knowledge,
He shines distinguish'd in a college;
Resolv'd nor honour, nor estate,
Himself alone should make him great.
Here soon for every art renown'd,
His influence is diffus'd around;
Th' inferiour youth, to learning led,
Less to be fam'd than to be fed,
Behold the glory he has won,
And blush to see themselves outdone;
And now, inflam'd with rival rage,
In scientifick strife engage,
Engage; and, in the glorious strife,
The arts new kindle into life.
Here would our hero ever dwell,
Fix'd in a lonely learned cell;
Contented to be truly great,
In Virtue's best belov'd retreat;
Contented he — but Fate ordains,
He now shall shine in nobler scenes,
Rais'd high, like some celestial fire,
To shine the more, still rising higher;
Completely form'd in every part,
To win the soul, and glad the heart.
The powerful voice, the graceful mien,
Lovely alike, or heard, or seen;
The outward form and inward vie,
His soul bright beaming from his eye,
Ennobling every act and air,
With just, and generous, and sincere.
Accomplish’d thus, his next resort
Is to the council and the court,
Where Virtue is in least repute,
And interest the one pursuit;
Where right and wrong are bought and sold,
Barter’d for beauty, and for gold;
Here Manly Virtue, even here,
Pleas'd in the person of a peer,
A peer; a scarcely bearded youth,
Who talk'd of justice and of truth,
Of innocence the surest guard,
Tales here forgot, or yet unheard;
That he alone deserv’d esteem,
Who was the man he wish'd to seem;
Call'd it unmanly and unwise,
To lurk behind a mean disguise;
(Give fraudful Vice the mask and screen,
'Tis Virtue's interest to be seen;)
Call'd want of shame a want of sense,
And found, in blushes, eloquence.
Thus, acting what he taught so well,
He drew dumb Merit from her cell,
Led with amazing art along
The bashful dame, and loos'd her tongue;
And, while he made her value known,
Yet more display'd and rais'd his own.
Thus young, thus proof to all temptations,
He rises to the highest stations;
For where high honour is the prize,
True Virtue has a right to rise:
Let courtly slaves low bend the knee
To Wealth and Vice in high degree:
Exalted Worth disdains to owe
Its grandeur to its greatest foe.
Now rais'd on high, see Virtue shows
The godlike ends for which he rose;
For him, let proud Ambition know
The height of glory here below,
Grandeur, by goodness made complete!
To bless, is truly to be great!
He taught how men to honour rise,
Like gilded vapours to the skies,
Which, howsoever they display
Their glory from the god of day,
Their noblest use is to abate
His dangerous excess of heat,
To shield the infant fruits and flowers,
And bless the earth with genial showers.
Now change the scene; a nobler care
Demands him in a higher sphere[1]:
Distress of nations calls him hence,
Permitted so by Providence;
For models, made to mend our kind,
To no one clime should be confin'd;
And Manly Virtue, like the sun,
His course of glorious toils should run;
Alike diffusing in his flight
Congenial joy, and life, and light.
Pale Envy sickens, Errour flies,
And Discord in his presence dies;
Oppression hides with guilty dread,
And Merit rears her drooping head;
The arts revive, the vallies sing,
And winter softens into spring:
The wondering world, where'er he moves,
With new delight looks up and loves;
One sex consenting to admire,
Nor less the other to desire;
While he, though seated on a throne,
Confines his love to one alone;
The rest condemn'd, with rival voice
Repining, do applaud his choice.
Fame now reports, the Western Isle
Is made his mansion for a while,
Whose anxious natives, night and day,
(Happy beneath his righteous sway)
Weary the gods with ceaseless prayer,
To bless him, and to keep him there;
And claim it as a debt from Fate,
Too lately found, to lose him late.

  1. Lord Carteret had the honour of mediating peace for Sweden with Denmark and with the czar.